The Americas

Discovery of wallet reportedly reignites search for missing American surfer

Photos of Darryl Fornatora

Photos of Darryl Fornatora

Authorities in the Dominican Republic reportedly reignited the search for a missing Florida surfer Thursday after the discovery of his wallet.

The wallet of Darryl Fornatora, a 46-year-old Palm Beach native, contained his driver’s license, credit cards and hundreds of dollars in cash with burn marks, WPEC-TV reported. A local diver reportedly found the wallet in Cabarete.

Fornatora disappeared on Jan. 27 and the discovery of his wallet has been the first piece of substantial evidence found in the case.

According to his family, Fornatora and his friend Matt Rigby checked into a villa in Caberete on Jan. 25 during their surfing trip. When he was finished surfing, Fornatora checked in with his nervous mother. However, after their text-message exchange, his mother said she never heard from him again.

Fornatora and Rigby were scheduled to fly home together on Jan. 31. But for reasons unknown, Rigby cut his trip short and returned to Florida Jan. 28. Fornatora's return ticket went unchanged -- and unused.

A day later, Rigby called Fornatora’s parents and said he had not heard or seen their son since the afternoon of Jan. 27, according to the family.

Fornatora’s family said that Rigby’s story of what occurred in the coastal town has changed several times.

At one point he claimed that there was no surf and decided to travel home and that Fornatura stayed behind. Then he claimed Fornatora got upset one night as they headed into town and when he looked away from Fornatora for a split second, Fornatora was gone.

The newest events in the search for Fornatora have his family more concerned than relieved.

“I decided I would check Facebook and opened it up and saw the evidence that they have found his wallet,” Nancy Fornatora, Darryl’s mother, told WPTV. “Everything was just right out there and I thought that we would get a warning or something prior to something like that happening. But we did not and it was rather shocking.”

Gilbert Fornatora, Darryl’s father, also expressed concerns over the case, calling the latest news “very strange.”

“It’s very strange,” Gilbert told WPTV. “That after 49 days, with some visits down there and some communication between so-called witnesses of Darryl’s whereabouts in the last day, that all of these things seem to have occurred right after some notoriety.”

WPEC-TV reported that the discovery of Fornatora’s wallet has led authorities to plan for dive crews to search the area again. Murky waters stopped divers from searching the area on Friday.

The Dominican Republic National Police Department is leading the investigation into the disappearance of Fornatora and is sharing its information with the U.S. Embassy. The Fornatora family is supposed to get updates from the embassy as new information trickles in.

Local authorities ruled out drowning for Fornatora, who is an experienced surfer and swimmer and works as the director of the Lake Park Tennis Center in Lake Park, Fla.

The Fornatora family is still hopeful that more information will come to light soon. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Fornatora, WPEC-TV reported.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is urged to call the embassy tipline at 809-368-7713.

Fox News’ Cristina Corbin contributed to this report.

Click for more from WPEC-TV.

Click for more from WPTV.